Friday, 10 December 2010

It’s not all bad news for the Lib Dems…

As everyone watched to see how many ways the Liberal Democrats would split in Westminster the party took centre stage in the few by-elections taking place yesterday. There were no surprises in Warrington (Cheshire) as Labour easily gained the seat from the Lib Dems but the other two results were a lot better for the yellows. In Fareham (Hampshire) they managed to produce a classic Liberal Democrat by-election victory, riding a huge swing to take a seat from the Conservatives. They also gained a seat off Labour in Truro (Cornwall) to take control of the City (Parish) Council.

I'll start in Warrington where the Liberal Democrats were always going to struggle to hold the vacant Bewsey & Whitecross ward. The by-election was triggered by the resignation of Cllr. Jo Crotty, who felt she no longer had the time to attend meetings following a promotion. The Lib Dems held two of the three seats in the ward but they lost heavily to Labour in May. As Labour have been enjoying big swings towards them in urban wards recently they were expected to gain the seat and they duly delivered. Jeff Richards won the seat with over 70% of the vote as Labour reduced the LibDem/Tory coalition's majority on the Council to just one. The result represented a 17.3% swing towards Labour from earlier in the year, and a 38.4% swing from the 2007 result. I has been suggested that the circumstances surrounding Crotty's resignation added to the scale of the Lib Dem defeat but this result is still very worrying for them. If swings of around 30% are repeated in next May's local elections then the party will struggle to hold on to any of their seats in the North West urban areas.

Warrington Borough Council












Vote %


Jeff Richards (E)




Ann Raymond




Lance Reah




Lyndsay McAteer




John Mulhall




It's not all doom and gloom for the Liberal Democrats as they performed a lot better in the two by-elections taking place in the South of the country. In Fareham the Fareham West ward was vacant following the resignation of the Conservative Councillor. Diana Harrison due to ill health. In the last two elections in this ward the Tories received over 60% of the vote so this was surely going to be an 'easy hold'…? Apparently not, as the Lib Dems stormed to a shock gain with just under 50% of the vote. Nick Gregory's victory represented a 27% swing to the Lib Dems since the May elections as the Conservative vote halved. Results like these are almost always down to local issues and in this case it seems to be the Lib Dems' opposition to plans for 7000 new houses to be built on a greenfield site helped them in this by-election. The Tories have a huge majority on the Council and it appears that the residents of Fareham feel this is getting pushed through against their will. The Conservatives have a couple of years to quell the anger though as the next round of elections take place in 2012.

Finally, the Liberal Democrats took control of the Truro City Council, which is a Parish despite the name, by gaining the Moresk ward from Labour. There haven't been elections in Truro for a long time as the current Council was elected unopposed in 2007. This is the fourth by-election to take place since then and the Lib Dems have won them all. The Council isn't up for election again until 2013, to coincide with the new Cornwall Unitary Authority elections, so their narrow majority could hold for a few years.


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